Curricular Transformation through
By Tim Haresign, associate professor of biology,
the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey
For the last three years, Professor Sonia Gonsalves
and I have been codirectors of the Bildner Diversity
Initiative at the Richard Stockton College. The project’s
main objective is to create a more inclusive environment
and foster a deeper understanding of issues relating
to diversity at Stockton. Our principal strategy for
change was curricular transformation with a focus on
incoming freshmen. We felt that if we got to students
early, we could have a significant effect on their perceptions
of “the other.”
If successful, this change in perception would have
effects that went well beyond any individual course:
it could change the way the students understood and
approached issues in other courses, affect how the students
selected courses, and alter how students interacted
across differences. The effects would also go beyond
the individual student. The cognitive and affective
gains made by these freshmen could have a large impact
throughout their college careers as they interacted
with others in classes, dorms, clubs, and organizations.
We began with a strategy of infusing diversity in regular
freshman seminar classes but made a mid-course change
and used diversity as an organizing principle for our
new multi-section freshman course, Diversity Issues.
The course was collaboratively taught, with up to seven
different instructors teaching during the semester.
All of the faculty agreed to use one common reading
amidst the various individualized syllabi and to discuss
gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, and religion
in that order. The faculty also agreed to include an
experiential requirement in which students were to seek
out people from different racial or ethnic backgrounds.
Faculty were given a rich array of resources (books,
articles, Web sites, videos, model assignments, grading
rubrics, etc.) on both diversity and student-centered
pedagogy, all supplemented by summer workshops. Faculty
also learned how to incorporate service learning into
the curriculum, and the Office of Service Learning provided
service-learning placements for faculty who wanted to
use them. Faculty could choose to use these resources
as they saw fit. The only other requirements were that
all instructors would teach the course during the same
time module (same days of the week and same times of
day), use the assessment instruments we provided, and
share course materials with each other. The process
of planning and teaching this course with a group of
diverse faculty members created a de facto learning
community focused on the pedagogy of teaching diversity,
which served as a mutual support network as we moved
through the semester.
The common time module allowed us to bring all the
classes together for outside speakers. It also allowed
for subsets of instructors to experiment with different
types of inter-classroom interaction, such as bringing
two classes together for a debate, assigning inter-class
group work, or even swapping instructors for a day to
offer students a different instructional perspective.
We also worked closely with student affairs to put together
a calendar of diversity-related extracurricular events.
All faculty made this information available to the students,
and some also incorporated attendance at these events
into the course, either as requirements or for extra
credit. Our Office of Student Services creates cocurricular
transcripts for any students who request them (see intraweb.stockton.edu/ultra).
These transcripts allow professors to track attendance
at extracurricular events.
There were a large variety of pedagogies employed
across the sections, but the unifying ones were discussion
and reflection. Classroom work focused on discussion,
both in small groups and with the whole class. Almost
all of the experiential learning the students were involved
in was reinforced and evaluated through the use of reflective
writing. In these assignments students were expected
to critically evaluate the information they were getting
and to reflect on their perceptions and feelings about
Our assessment showed that the course was successful
in increasing awareness of issues related to diversity
and difference, but the students had trouble connecting
this understanding to specific cases, either in their
personal life or in the world at large. For this reason,
in the spring of 2006, we will be piloting a second-semester
freshman course entitled Transcending Differences. This
collaboratively taught course will be specifically designed
for students who have already taken Diversity Issues.
In Transcending Differences, we will go deeper into
issues raised in the first course through the use of
deliberative dialogue tecniques and case studies.